In little over a week, on the evening of Saturday October 26, the quiet road next to the Deeside Community Centre will hustle and bustle once more as participants get ready for the start gun of the Illuminator night trail race.
Colourful lights will wash over the grey walls of St Thomas’ church, and while some serious runners are going through their race strategy in their minds and gently stretch their legs, more easy-going teams of joggers and walkers will apply last touches of fluorescent face paint or get their glow-in-the-dark fancy dress in order.
The organisers Firetrail have announced that this will be the last Illuminator in the current format but are not ready to reveal what the future will hold, so this will be the last chance to take part in this unique event as we know it.
The Aboyne-based event is now in its fifth year – yet the idea to set up a 25km night run through a wintry forest in Scotland might have sounded daft at first.
The original 15-mile long course through the beautiful Glen Tanar estate has been billed as Scotland’s toughest night trail event. It takes participants through ancient Caledonian forest and over exposed heather moorland.
Due to requests for a less arduous route, the organisers have added two shorter distances of 8km and 15km, which have made the event more accessible.
But even the shortest distance, which is open to young people from 14 years of age onwards, is still a long way from a walk in the park: it includes a hike up the steep side of the local hill Craigendinnie before dropping back down into the village.
Out on the course, the Braemar Mountain Rescue Association (BMRA) will be present in several of the marshalling checkpoints. The local mountain rescue team has been the Illuminator’s charity partner ever since the first event in 2015 and it proved to be the perfect match: the team members are only too familiar with rescue situations at night if needs be.
Colin Munro from the BMRA says: “Over the past four years the Illuminator participants have been very generous, which allowed us to train and equip several new team members – for this we are incredibly grateful. It would be fantastic to add another two new trainees over the coming year!
“We still have a small number of free pledge places to give away for fundraisers, so if you would like to help please get in touch with the organisers via the event website before entries close on October 20.”
The Illuminator’s trademark feature, its colourful atmospheric light zone in the middle of Glen Tanar Estate, will be visited by all three routes. Hot drinks and snacks will be provided there to fuel the participants before their final hill effort on the way back to the event base.
The route is well marked with reflective signage and no navigation skills are required to take part, but great emphasis is put on participants’ self reliance in terms of equipment.